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Learn how to keep your greenhouse warm while staying off-grid


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(NaturalNews) Keeping your greenhouse warm during the winter months can be a real challenge, especially if you don't want to use electricity to maintain adequate temperature levels. Germinating and growing plants in the cold season can be particularly difficult, especially when the nighttime temperatures plummet.

Even if you're willing to use electricity for germinating mats or to heat the air in your greenhouse, fuel costs can quickly become prohibitive, especially if your greenhouse (like many) is not so well-insulated.

However, there are a few methods for maintaining warmth in your greenhouse without having to burn fuel or electricity.

Troy Boylan, of MikesBackyardNursery.com has shared two basic strategies for winter greenhouse temperature control, neither of which require electricity or fuel consumption.

The two principles are simple and easy to implement. The first involves using "thermal mass" to absorb and store solar heat energy; the second is based on using a compost pile to generate and radiate heat.

Using thermal mass to heat a greenhouse involves placing materials in the structure that absorb and retain heat from sunlight and then slowly release thermal energy during the nighttime hours.

One method for collecting solar thermal energy is to distribute gravel or small stones across the floor of the greenhouse. This provides a lot of potential warmth that will slowly radiate during the cold and dark hours of the daily cycle.

Painting cinder blocks black and then arranging them throughout the greenhouse where they will be exposed to sunlight is another simple way to utilize the thermal mass approach. The cinder blocks can be used to support planters, water containers or even benches and table-tops.

Ceramic pots also absorb solar heat in the same way cinder blocks do. They can also be painted black for maximum thermal absorption.

The other method for generating heat in a greenhouse without having to burn fuel is to incorporate an indoor compost pile, a technique which can have rather dramatic results, if managed properly.

A simple compost heap can be fashioned out of wire mesh formed into a loop. Place leaves, garden waste, plant clippings and weeds in the loop and make sure the compost is kept moist. Decaying plant material gives off a great amount of heat and can raise the temperature considerable inside your greenhouse.

In fact, care should be taken, as compost can actually ignite through spontaneous combustion. Keep this in mind when deciding where to place your compost pile, especially if your greenhouse is attached to your home.

A slightly more involved technique for harnessing the heat generated by a compost pile is described by E. Vinje of PlanetNatural.com:

One fuel-avoiding, sustainable-friendly method is to build a trench down the center of your greenhouse and, after covering it with palettes or some cobbled walk-way, make compost in it. This might be limited to a small hole in the center of a hobby-sized greenhouse. Even at that, the compost will help moderate temperatures in the greenhouse and you'll always have a ready supply of garden gold. And the daytime temperatures in the greenhouse should encourage your compost to heat up.

Vinje also has some useful suggestions on harnessing heat using the thermal mass technique. He suggests using 55-gallon drums painted black and filled with water as a means of collecting and radiating heat. Vinje also describes a method used by a friend which involves wrapping black plastic around tubes of sand that are laid on the greenhouse floor.

These suggestions should spark your own imagination in terms of finding natural ways to heat your own greenhouse, whether you plan to live off-grid or you just want to avoid using fuel or electricity to keep your own growing space warm during the winter months.

As Vinje points out, these techniques may only raise the temperature a degree or two, but that could prove to be enough to make a substantial difference in your greenhouse environment.




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